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Session goes down to the wire

Nearly two-dozen education bills remain short of the finish line as the Colorado General Assembly races to meet a Wednesday adjournment deadline. Passage of most of those bills is expected amid the last-minute confusion, but there are some key issues to watch. Here’s a look:

School finance – The $5.3 billion school funding bill for 2012-13 has a Senate committee hearing Monday morning, meaning preliminary floor debate could come later in the day, with final passage Tuesday. House Bill 12-1345 will then return to the House for consideration of Senate amendments. While the funding plan at the center of the bill isn’t in dispute, the measure could be a vehicle for “statement” amendments intended to spark floor debate over the Lobato v. State school funding case.

Literacy – The much-amended, much-compromised House Bill 12-1238 is intended to improve outcomes for K-3 students who struggle with reading. It’s awaiting House approval of Senate amendments.

Testing – Senate Bill 12-172 would require the State Board of Education to commit Colorado to one of two multi-state testing programs. It’s the only major education bill that still faces its first House committee hearing. This is one that could go down to the wire on Wednesday.

Discipline – The first House floor consideration of Senate Bill 12-046 is scheduled for Monday, meaning that if all goes smoothly final passage could come on Tuesday. There’s little disagreement over the bill’s policy goal of eliminating most school zero-tolerance policies, and it appears that concerns have been eased about the bill’s data-reporting requirements.

Sales tax holiday – House Bill 12-1069 also needs Senate Committee review and then two floor votes. There’s a bit of uncertainty lingering over the holiday for back-to-school purchases, but the bill does have strong bipartisan sponsorship in the Senate.

Trans fats – Senate Bill 12-068, which would ban added trans fats in some school foods, is to have its first House floor debate Monday. There’s not a lot of lawmaker enthusiasm for this measure, but it’s been significantly watered down in order to reduce opposition.

Catching up

Here’s an update on the fate of some other education bills considered late last week.

House Bill 12-1333 – This Republican bill, which would have allowed teachers to withdraw from unions at any time, rather than only during specified periods, was killed on a 3-2 party-line vote early Thursday morning in the Senate State Affairs Committee.

House Bill 12-1306 – This proposal would have allowed school districts that gained students after the Oct. 1 count date to seek extra per-pupil funding from the Department of Education at the end of the school year. Republicans Sen. Keith King of Colorado Springs and Rep. Chris Holbert of Parker introduced the bill in response to criticisms that large numbers of online school dropouts were returning to regular schools that weren’t receiving funding for them.

During the draining Senate Education Committee meeting Thursday night, King again mentioned legislative staff research that indicated the problem was a small one and then asked that the bill be killed, saying he’d made his point. (King also had concerns that Democrats might try to amend provisions onto the bill that he didn’t want.)

House Bill 12-179 – This measure was an attempt by Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass, to deflect criticism from the Building Excellent Schools Today program. Some BEST projects have had construction deficiencies linked to a Fort Collins engineering firm. It would have changed review of construction plans and also altered the BEST board. Education lobbyists didn’t like the bill, the Senate Education Committee wrestled with it twice and the Senate Appropriations Committee killed it during a brief late-afternoon meeting on Friday.

The calendar

Here’s the schedule of education bills as issued by legislative staff on Friday. Consider it an approximation, because things can be fluid during the last days. Check here for links to the full calendars of all bills, resolutions and other business.


10 a.m. – House final consideration

  • Senate Bill 12-160 – Membership of state parent advisory council

House preliminary consideration

  • House Bill 12-1109 – Budget cuts elsewhere in state government to fund education
  • Senate Bill 12-051 – Suggested contracting procedures for school districts
  • Senate Bill 12-068 – Ban on added trans fats in some school foods
  • Senate Bill 12-046 – Reform of school discipline policies

House consideration of resolutions

  • HJR 12-1023 – Legislative legal intervention in Lobato v. State

10 a.m. – Senate preliminary consideration

  • House Bill 12-1240 – Education law cleanup bill, including some CAP4K delays

Upon floor adjournment – House Appropriations Committee, room TBA

  • Consideration of bills as assigned, such as late-moving Senate measures

Upon floor adjournment – Senate Appropriations Committee, room 356

  • House Bill 12-1345 – School finance act
  • House Bill 12-1261 – Stipends for board-certified teachers in high-needs schools
  • House Bill 12-1069 – Back-to-school sales tax holiday

1:30 p.m. – House Education Committee, room 0112

  • Senate Bill 12-172 – Multistate testing


9 a.m. – House preliminary consideration

  • House Bill 12-1252 – Online financial transparency requirements for some universities
  • Senate Bill 12-164 – Regulation of for-profit colleges

9 a.m. – Senate preliminary consideration

  • House Bill 12-14 – Technical measure on dental hygienist degrees
  • House Bill 12-1155 – Reform of higher education remediation methods


Whatever’s left over

Both chambers, particularly the House, have amendments to consider before final re-passage of bills. The most important measure on this list is the literacy bill, and none are expected to be contentious. Here’s the lineup:

House consideration of Senate amendments

  • House Bill 12-1081 – Financial flexibility powers of Auraria Higher Education Center
  • House Bill 12-1324 – Admissions standards of Colorado Mesa University
  • House Bill 12-1124 – Commissioning of digital learning study
  • House Bill 12-1043 – Concurrent enrollment modifications
  • House Bill 12-1086 – Ratification of state agency regulations, including SB 10-191 appeals rules
  • House Bill 12-1238 – Early literacy

Senate consideration of House amendments

  • Senate Bill 12-036 – Requirement of parent consent for most school surveys

The Senate also still has to vote on numerous gubernatorial appointments, including positions on the Metro State and Western State trustees and the boards of the community college system, CollegeInvest and the Charter School Institute Board.

Use the Education Bill Tracker for links to bill texts and status information.

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